The “I Love My City” campaign is gearing up for a work day and a combined community worship service.

The two-day event will feature nine area churches and the Columbia Basin Board of Realtors. Rev. Terry Haight of Hermiston Assembly of God Church is excited about the increased involvement of the faith-based community.

“They are jumping on board with it,” Haight said. “Also, I know there are other groups that independently approach and do things with the city.”

As summer turned to fall in 2016, members of Hermiston Assembly first organized the initiative. Donning red T-shirts emblazoned with “I Love My City,” about 70 volunteers spread out across the city to be of service to others. They organized a pair of car washes, distributed food and drinks at local parks, held a block party and went door-to-door offering to pray with people.

A season of change sprouted as church parishioners sought ways to promote healing in the community after several tragedies. The idea, Haight said, was to spread God’s love through simple and practical ways.

A spring cleanup effort will take place 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. People who aren’t connected to a specific church that’s involved can register at www.ilovehermiston.com or meet at McKenzie Park for instructions and work crew assignments. In addition to targeted cleanup areas, it will include free car washes at Les Schwab Tire Center, 830 N. First St., and Smitty’s Ace Hardware, 1845 N. First St. Also, “I Love My City” T-shirts are available for $10.

The worship service is Sunday at 10 a.m. at Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center, 1705 Airport Road, Hermiston. The faith-based community will gather and worship as one body of believers, Haight said. Childcare will be provided for kids up to age 5. Children 6 and over are encouraged to sit with their families during the service.

“It’s a bi-lingual service with various pastors. We try to get as many people involved as possible,” Haight said. “It’s a relationship-building opportunity among the churches.”

Since the initial “I Love My City” event, nearly a dozen churches have joined the effort. The idea is to organize community service activities several times a year — everything from cleanup efforts and car washes to gift-wrapping and children’s activities. Sometimes it’s one church or several congregations working in conjunction with each other. Then, the churches all come together once a year to do a larger organized effort and hold a combined church service, Haight said.

The combined efforts have grown — the first year included 300 volunteers, which increased to 400 last year. And, 800 people attended the combined worship service in 2017, increasing to 1,200 last year. With the involvement of additional churches, Haight is hoping for 500 volunteers and would love to see as many, if not more, people at the service.

“We want to get as many people involved as possible,” he said. “Also, it’s not something we just do once a year. ‘I Love My City’ should be a lifestyle.”

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